Friday, October 16, 2020

Paul Simon 15: You’re The One

Perhaps chastened by the failure of his big splash on Broadway, Paul Simon went back to just making records. You’re The One was the first of his albums in a long while that didn’t have an overall theme or style. Granted, his output hadn’t been that heavy to begin with, and the tracks still feature exotic rhythms and not exactly orthodox instruments and textures. That’s also not to say he’s avoiding profundity by any stretch, but a Paul Simon album without an agenda is certainly a novelty.
The finest moments bookend the set: the gentle yet rhythmic “That’s Where I Belong”, and the suitably peaceful “Quiet”. In between, we follow narratives like the troubled marriage chronicles in “Darling Lorraine” and the title track, the latter frustrating in that there’s a wonderful melody in there, while the accusations in the chorus deflate it. Maybe that’s the point, but it reduces the inclination to listen too closely. “Old” is a personal history in the guise of a standup routine, while “The Teacher” is just plain pretentious in its professed humility.
We should mention that he had young children around the house during the making of this album, so perhaps that explains the nursery rhyme elements of “Look At That” and “Hurricane Eye”, but even he can’t leave things as simple as that. “Pigs, Sheep And Wolves” could be a nice parable if he hadn’t smothered the Mother Goose possibilities with Orwellian sentiments illustrated by Law & Order imagery. “Señorita With A Necklace Of Tears” pulls a remote line out of the middle for its title, rather than go with one of the more memorable hooks scattered throughout. “Love” is a more pleasant samba and a better cross between intricacy and directness.
You’re The One sounds good, as we would expect, but his attempts to sound relaxed and chummy aren’t very convincing. Maybe he’s too easy a target for criticism, but for all its sonics, and the sameness of it all, you’ll want to stick with the classics. (Only four years later the album was overhauled along with its older siblings, adding three live versions expertly performed that don’t expand much on the studio versions.)

Paul Simon You’re The One (2000)—
2004 CD reissue: same as 2000, plus 3 extra tracks

1 comment:

  1. I was really surprised when my brother told me he had tickets for a Paul Simon show in December of 2000. I had no idea that he was touring and had a new album. We had great seats in an old, somewhat beat up theater (the Orpheum in Boston), the band was great, and the new material was fine. The standouts live were “Darling Lorraine” (Paul really got into acting out the lyrics) and the amusing “Old”.

    That, of course, makes me more inclined towards the album than some people. Interestingly, Paul is varying his lyrical style more than he did on his previously three albums (I’m skipping over “The Capeman”, which I have NO interest in hearing). He gets surprisingly sentimental (if still analytical, as well) in “That’s Where I Belong” and “Love; engages in modern myth making in “The Teacher”; again, sardonic in “Old”; narrative in “Darling Lorraine” and the title track; and even meditative in “Quiet”.

    I do agree that he doesn’t try a lot new musically here, except for the Celtic/New Age hymn of “Quiet” and the clever combination of his usual ethnic percussion with the Buddy Holly rhythm of “Old”, a nice juxtaposition with the lyrics.

    Paul seems to think this album is underrated, and I agree. It deserves more than a 2 ½, because the songwriting is really good. Try it again!

    As for the rest of the concert, Paul did a really good job of balancing his new material with deep cuts for hardcore fans (“One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor”, “Spirit Voices”, “The Coast”) and hits (“50 Ways..”, “Me and Julio..”, “Still Crazy”, cuts from “Graceland”). I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised that he pulled out a few S&G hits (because I didn’t think they would fit in well musically with his later material), but I was. “Old Friends / Bookends”, “Homeward Bound”, “I Am a Rock” and “Mrs. Robinson” were just delightful to hear. I feel really fortunate to have seen this show in such a small setting.